By Greg Schwartz

Reviewed by Emma Lee

The slenderness of this chapbook of 18 poems suggests Greg Schwartz resisted the temptation to pack everything in and went for a select sampling instead. And select samplings I'm in favour of. The chilling atmospheres set the tone, e.g. in She,

'A hot dry wind picks up as she nears me,

Yet somehow I am soaked.

A fleshless hand reaches up to caress my face...'

Greg Schwartz trusts the readers' imaginations to out the images. He knows when to back off and when to add that perceptive, telling detail. Even character's dreams offer no respite, for example a hunter dreams of becoming a nocturnal bird of prey. He's also sensitive to irony and ambiguity, The Monster in my Closet, used to scare the narrator, who now laughs:-

'I remember that time

I caught him

Trying on my mom's dress.'

Greg Schwartz is alive to the rhythm of words, knows where to end lines and adds to the effect of the poem, bucking the current North American trend for prosaic rhythms which almost present prose as poetry. Now and again though I wanted more attention to assonance. I know he can do it. In A Christmas Tree:-

'...two ruby lights flick on

tinsel garlands whisper

like an icy arctic breeze

and in the belly of the sleeping house

something hungry growls.'

Where the staccato 'ruby lights flick' gives way to the susurrus of 'whisper', 'breeze', 'sleeping' and 'something'. Sound-wise it's a delight. It echoes the sense of something sinister about to happen and stops at 'growls', trusting the reader to imagine what happens next.

As mentioned earlier, this is a well-sifted, select collection, with much effort being put into the coherence and complementary effect of each poem.

Bits and Pieces by Greg Schwartz. A5 stapled paperback, 24pp, $6 incl P&P for US (refer website for other overseas options). Published by SPEC House of Poetry, 975 HWY 848, Columbia, LA 71418.

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